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what did pioneers use for toilet paper

what did pioneers use for toilet paper

what did pioneers use for toilet paper

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In a time of panicked pandemic buying, it can be tempting to think back to a time of abundant toilet paper supplies—or to wonder how people used to wipe in the age before 24-packs of extra-soft three-ply sheets. Hundreds of millions of people around the world today, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, don’t even bother with the stuff, preferring instead to finish their bathroom visit with a clean rinse of water. But archaeologists and anthropologists have done plenty of interesting dirty work as they document how people wiped themselves in other cultures back in the day.

what did pioneers use for toilet paper
what did pioneers use for toilet paper

If you relieved yourself in a public latrine in ancient Rome, you may have used a tersorium to wipe. These ancient devices consisted of a stick with a vinegar- or salt water-soaked sponge attached. They are mentioned throughout Roman literature, including a gruesomely unforgettable passage in a letter by the philosopher Seneca to Roman official Lucilius that relates the suicide of a German gladiator who shoved a stick tipped with a sponge “devoted to the vilest uses” down his throat rather than head into the arena to die by wild animal.

Used communally, the humble tersorium is thought to have influenced the era’s public bathroom design. Small troughs at the feet of the public lavatories of Ephesus were thought to be sources of continually flowing water—all the better to dip your tersorium in. However, archaeologists have yet to discover a preserved example. “The question is, do you use it to clean yourself or to clean the latrine?” asks archaeologist Jennifer Bates, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Museum.

Before Toilet Paper

What did people use before toilet paper was invented?

Before the advent of modern toilet paper many different materials were used for the same purposes. Different materials were used depending upon the country, weather conditions, social customs and status.

People used leaves, grass, ferns, corn cobs, maize, fruit skins, seashells, stone, sand, moss, snow and water. The simplest way was physical use of one’s hand. Wealthy people usually used wool, lace or hemp.

Romans were the cleanest. Wealthy used wool and rosewater and others used sponge attached to a wooden stick, soaked in a bucket of salt water.

The Greeks would use clay.

In Coastal Regions, mussel shells were used (and sometimes coconut husk).

Europeans used hand (but they also used fountains with luxury of warm water).

People from Islamic cultures used they left hand with little water (they are still doing that today). This is why it is offensive to greet someone with your left hand.

The Eskimos would use moss or snow.

what did pioneers use for toilet paper
SONDERHO, DENMARK – AUGUST 07: Holder for a roll of toilet paper. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

The Vikings used wool.

The Colonial Americans used the core center cobs from shelled ears of corn.

The Mayans used corn cobs.

The French invented the first bidet (of course without of modern plumbing).

The Chinese invented the first toilet paper as we know it in the 14th Century.

Later people used pages from a books, newspapers, catalogs, etc.

What Did People Do Before Toilet Paper?

Anyone who’s been camping will tell you that a handful of dry leaves sure comes in handy when there isn’t any toilet paper around (and, as many of us know, unfortunate, accidental brushes with poison ivy can happen!). But you may be surprised to learn that before the mass production of toilet paper, the choices for “cleaning up” were far more varied than you might imagine.

Toilet paper was invented in China. The earliest historical accounts of using wads of tissue paper to clean up after… well, afterward, are found in the 6th century. The first toilet paper was manufactured on a large scale for that particular use, occurring in what is today Zhejiang province in the 14th century.

Modern toilet paper wasn’t commonly available in the United States until the mid 19th century. Before it was manufactured in the ubiquitous 4 ½” rolls we all know and love, toilet paper came in bundles of flat sheets, roughly the size of the box of today’s facial tissues (which are larger sheets, folded).

The father of American toilet tissue is said to be J.C. Gayetty, and his “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper for the Water-Closet” was available from the Civil War era, well into the 1920s.

But what did people use before toilet paper was readily available? That depends on what part of the world you are from:

Traditionally, people in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent use water and the mechanical action of the left hand.

Parts of Europe, too, use strategically aimed jets of water, or separate fixtures known as bidets. In those cases, toilet paper is simply used to dry off.

and In Japan, flat sticks, a bit like tongue depressors, known as chügi, were drawn from left to right over the soiled area.

also In ancient Greece, pottery shards were used with a similar scraping motion. Sometimes these pottery fragments would be inscribed with the name of an enemy before being used.

what did pioneers use for toilet paper
what did pioneers use for toilet paper
  • But what did people use before toilet paper was readily available? That depends on what part of the world you are from:

Traditionally, people in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent use water and the mechanical action of the left hand.

Parts of Europe, too, use strategically aimed jets of water, or separate fixtures known as bidets. In those cases, toilet paper is simply used to dry off.

also In Japan, flat sticks, a bit like tongue depressors, known as chügi, were drawn from left to right over the soiled area.

and In ancient Greece, pottery shards were used with a similar scraping motion. Sometimes these pottery fragments would be inscribed with the name of an enemy before being used.

Native Americans used twigs, dry grass, small stones, and even oyster or clam shells.

In Rome, people cleaned themselves after using a public latrine with a sea sponge lashed to a stick, stored in a bucket of saltwater or vinegar. It was considered polite to give the sponge a cursory rinse and a squeeze before putting it back in the bucket to get it ready for the next person.

what did pioneers use for toilet paper
what did pioneers use for toilet paper

MORE POSTS:

In rural agrarian communities, handfuls of straw were frequently used, but one of the most popular items to use for clean-up was dried corncobs. They were plentiful and quite efficient at cleaning. and They could be drawn in one direction or turned on an axis. They were also softer on tender areas than you might think. Even after toilet paper became available, some people in Western states still preferred corncobs when using the outhouse.

 

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